Common returned to Chicago this week for a speaking engagement at Chi-Talk, a one-day (TED Talk-esq) event sponsored by Nike and held during the 2014 World Basketball Festival. The purpose of the talk was to encourage local youth to stay in school and follow their dreams.
Chicago currently has the highest number of murders per year compared to any other American city (21st in terms of population, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center), a stat widely publicized by the media and music industry.
Common, a Chicago native, wasted no time once on stage. The Chicago recording artist broke out into a spoken word segment, followed by a captivating conversation with host and author, Kevin Carroll, during which he reminded those in attendance of how much greatness has been birthed from Chicago.
“Right now, I’m taking a stand because I care about each and everyone of you. When I look at you, I see myself. I come from the same place that you come from and I see the potential that you all have,” said the rapper. “When you hear them talking about our city, they talk about the violence and all the things that are happening. We know that exists, but we are the ones that will rise out of that and do something great with our lives.”
“You’ve seen Kanye do it, you’ve seen my man J. Ivy do it, so many greats… Think about this, some people come to Chicago because of it’s greatness, whether it’s Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan or President Barack Obama. Greatness has come from this city and we have it in us to be great,” Common continued. “You’re going to face some challenges, but the best of the best face challenges. It doesn’t matter who we’re talking about, whether it’s Michael Jordan, myself, Oprah Winfrey or President Barack Obama, they all faced challenges. The challenges are there for you to get better.”
Later, Common encouraged attendees to chase their dreams and to always remember to start everything with love. “I just want you to know that whatever you choose to do in life, start with love. I was 12 years old when I wrote my first rap. I didn’t know I was going to be an emcee for the rest of my life, but I thank God that I found that gift and kept developing that gift. Know God will get you through it, because it’s in you to get through it.”
In addition to Common, other esteemed speakers included Angela Davis, Scoop Jackson, Coodie & Chike, Scottie Pippen, Sheryl Swoopes, Kevin Coval, Kevin Carroll and Xan Aranda — all shared inspiring stories to over 400 Chicago children set to head back to school for the fall.